While the Obama Administration has been allowing legal marijuana states to operate without much federal interference, there are no concrete laws on the books to prevent the next president from closing down the cannabis industry as soon as he or she is handed the keys to the White House.
Despite the fact that the majority of the 2016 presidential hopefuls haven’t indicated any plans to topple the billion-dollar marketplace upon winning the election, the looming possibility has been enough to inspire one federal lawmaker to take a preemptive strike against any such action.
Democratic Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado announced plans earlier this week to reintroduce the “Respect States’ and Citizens Rights Act,” a measure that would simply prevent the future president from putting a stop to legal pot sales. The bill, which failed to get any traction several years ago, would provide states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes with a shield against federal law.
During a recent press conference, DeGette told reporters that she believes the upcoming presidential election is the perfect reason to toss this legislation back into the ring. Citing the uncertainty over who will take control of the Oval Office and what their administration might do to an industry that is already suffering because of conflicting state and federal law, DeGette argued that waiting until after the next election to grab this bull by the horns could potentially foil all of the progress the legal marijuana has made, thus far.
“The threat of adverse federal action remains,” DeGette said. “Especially if a future president to this one approaches marijuana issues differently.” :
Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California introduced a similar measure to the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year. His proposal, the “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015,” seeks to provide individuals and pot businesses operating in legal states with immunity from federal prosecution. Like DeGette’s bill, it, too, looks to amend the Controlled Substances Act so that federal drug enforcers cannot take down any person or business as long as they are acting in compliance with their state’s respective marijuana laws.
However, the bill is sort of missing in action, as it has apparently become part of the more than twenty other pieces of legislation aimed at making federal pot reforms that have been left to linger indefinitely on the steps of the Capitol. There just hasn’t been enough Republican congressional support to get any of these measures off the ground.
The Justice Department penned a series of memos last year to show it was taking a hands off approach to states that have legalized marijuana, but over the course of the past year, the Drug Enforcement Administration has not stopped aggressively pursuing marijuana states. So, it stands to reason that something has to be done at the federal level in the immediate future to truly protect states from this kind of federal interference before the cannabis industry becomes much larger following the 2016 election.
A recent poll revealed that Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire overwhelmingly support keeping the federal government out of state marijuana laws. Let’s hope this attitude spreads to the halls of Congress.
Representative DeGette is expected to unveil the updated language of her bill sometime within the next week.